Posts Tagged ‘Space Hulk’

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Utopia #9 – Old friends

November 16, 2013

When we left off a whopping four months ago, the 16th were in the process of storming Conner Industries’ research center 13 on the asteroid DH-3. The operation was going swell right up until the moment the squad realised they’d walked right into a trap. The forces of the Outer colonies had decided to crush one of the vaunted UTOPIA squads in a display of force and cunning.

The 16th was unfazed, though, and did their best to set up defenses. A search of the station armory (with the help of some defected security guards) revealed three brand new, unused automated sentry guns, which were quickly placed at critical locations. In addition the troopers hauled a few small shipping containers into the corridors to provide cover, and prepared to receive the attackers.

The sixteenth prepares

The sixteenth prepares

First to enter the installation was Pvt. Johnson of the Outer colonies 3rd Heavy infantry. He barely had time to step into the first corridor, when the sentry turret opened up and quite literally tore him apart. The demoralising start stalled the assault completely as the Heavy infantry leader Sgt. Mancala ordered a more cautious approach.

The new approach proved more successful, aided by the sentry gun misfiring. Having sat in their crate for years, they simply hadn’t been field tested and the squad could only curse as the gunfire suddenly died down. The troopers pitched in with their own firepower, with Lt. Fender and Pvts. Lau and Abdul pouring pulse rifle fire and grenades down the corridor.

It was tough going for the attackers, with trooper after trooper falling. However, the Outer colonies had committed to the mission, and a steady stream of reserves kept pouring in. Metre by metre, the attackers were pushing forward and taking the corridors. The grenades fired by the defenders served the attackers as well, with drifting smoke obscuring the advancing Heavy infantry. When another of the sentry guns died to the sound of electric fizzing and popping, things were starting to look worse. The 16th had something to look forward to, though: a hail from their dropship, the Apache Owl let them know that help was on the way. Would it reach them in time?

Heavy infantry advancing behind smoke

Heavy infantry advancing behind smoke

Four security guards had joined the 16th after it became apparent that they were not about to be rescued. However, it was quickly becoming clear that they were ill-equipped for the situation. While they did their best to guard the corridors with their few semi-automatic rifles, they were completely failing to do damage to the attackers, much to the frustration of the sixteenth. The Heavy infantry was getting closer and closer and were already at a distance where they could lob grenades at the defenders.

Disaster struck the attackers just as they were about to break through the defenses. The last sentry gun had malfunctioned, and Sgt. Mancala pulled the pin from a grenade and turned to throw it at the defenders, when the gun suddenly came back to life thanks to Pvt. DiGlaeser’s technical aptitude. Mancala hurriedly pulled back but fumbled with the grenade which fell at his feet, blowing up the sergeant and knocking nearby trooper Kaneda down. On the brink of breaking the defenders, the attack collapsed and the attackers pulled back, leaderless. With the Union of Terra fleet approaching, the defenders were suddenly close to winning.

Sgt. Mancala's grenade fail clears the corridor

Sgt. Mancala’s grenade fail clears the corridor

A heavy clanking announced a new turn of events. To the shock of the UTOPIA troopers, Pvt. Jane, MIA after the cyborg attack on Ryukyu Epsilon, had been brought back as a monstrous hybrid of man and machine. Apparently the Cyberdyne-Sendai corporation had managed to salvage more from the disaster than they’d let the Union know. The cyborg marched in, smashing Heavy infantry aside and stepping into the corridor. Lt. Fender and Pvts. Lau, Abdul and Dastevan stared eyes wide as the monster activated the minigun mounted on its right arm. The howl of the barrels was followed by a storm of bullets that tore up the corridor. Lau was hit twice and fell to the floor, while the rest ducked behind corners to avoid the onslaught. Miraculously, “Dog” Lau was still alive and unharmed, although scared out of his wits by yet another close brush with death. The troopers returned fire, but their shots ricocheted harmlessly off Jane. Lt. Fender could immediately see where this was going. It was time to abandon their positions and fall back to wait for extraction. Abdul fired another grenade down the corridor to slow Jane down and to provide them with some smoke for cover.

Cyborg Jane makes his entrance

Cyborg Jane makes his entrance

There was one man who didn’t want to retreat without a fight. Pvt. Krayten Dastevan was itching for combat and stood his ground in a branching side corridor, looking to not only engage Jane, but to engage him/it in hand to hand combat! Lieutenant Fender would have none of this. “Quit messing around, Dastevan, and haul ass out of there on the double!” he ordered. Grudingly Dastevan obeyed, but he did it too late. As he sprinted down the corridor, Jane spotted him and turned the minigun on Dastevan. Halfway through his escape, Pvt. Dastevan was cut in half by the hail of shots, spraying a nearby security guard with blood. The bullets tore through the last of the sentry guns as well. Jane spotted some more guards at the end of the corridor and stomped off after them. This enabled several of the 16th to sneak off towards safety.

Jane prepares to fire on Dastevan

Jane prepares to fire on Dastevan

The security guards fled, leaving Jane with no visible targets. The cyborg lumbered on and came face to face with one of the Heavy infantry troopers, who had been more than happy to hang back and let Jane clear the corridors for them. The minigun barrels whirred up again, but luckily rudimentary recognition protocols had been installed and Heavy infantry Pvt. Julian only suffered a case of soiled underwear.

Most of the 16th were fairly safely tucked away in a remote part of the research centre. Most, apart from Pvt. Lau. Lau had been too scared to stand up, and was slowly crawling down the corridor, hidden from sight by the shipping crate the squad had dragged up. There were two Heavy infantry troopers walking down the corridor, however, and it would only be a moment before Lau was spotted. Determined not to leave any more men behind, Lt. Fender ordered covering fire, and whether it was because of Lau’s uncanny luck or the troopers’ skill, the Heavy infantry was gunned down before they noticed the scruffy trooper.

The 16th huddles together

The 16th huddles together…

...as Lau crawls towards safety

…as Lau crawls towards safety

Fear spurred the three remaining security guards on, and they fled from Jane as fast as they could, barricading themselves in a room to wait for retrieval. True enough, a moment later the Apache Owl landed on the roof of the installation with a pressurised dome and started cutting an escape hatch. The Outer colonies forces were retreating, and the day was won. Only one decision remained: “Wait for us!” cried the security guards. Jane’s minigun had just shredded the door to the room and death loomed. Eyes turned to Lt. Fender for the decision. To wait for the security guards would endanger the squad, but this was the call Fender made. The guards had helped out, and it would have been inhumane to leave them behind – besides, with Dastevan gone there was always room for new recruits. The guards escaped, but the delay meant Jane had one more chance to open up on the Apache Owl. Bullets punched through into the crew compartment, and one of the security guards lost his leg at the knee. The sixteenth had made it, but had suffered yet another casualty, bringing the tally up to 15.

Pvt. Dastevan - KIA

Pvt. Dastevan – KIA

Man oh man, am I happy. After four months of inactivity, I had my doubts about the survival of this campaign. A much shorter delay has killed games before, and Utopia is my beloved pet. I was super happy to see that my fears were for nothing, as we quickly got into the groove again despite one of my three players dropping out at the last minute due to illness. After the first few rounds the players again remembered their characters and their personalities, and we once again got to grips with the rules. The game was as cinematic as before, and after the game we heaped praise on Flying Lead by Ganesha Games. The simple mechanics allow for quick and easy modification, and we came up with a lot of special rules on the spot, such as grenade explosions clouding the corridors with smoke, sentry guns and their malfunctions and Jane’s programming glitches – there was a very real chance of Jane actually firing on the the hapless Heavy infantry trooper, and when he was swatting aside the Outer colonies troopers, sheer luck stopped them from being injured.

That’s pretty much exactly one year of Utopia behind us. The next scenario will once again be something completely different. This one was a great opportunity for me to field my lovely new Pig Iron Heavy infantry and my cyborg Jane conversion. Now, what should I paint next…

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Utopia #8 – Assault on research center 13

July 7, 2013

The war between the Union of Terra and the Outer colonies was steadily grinding on. For their prowess in combat, the sixteenth had been given some generous R&R, sergeant Fender had been promoted to lieutenant and corporal Franz-Haugen-Ankerson had been made the new sergeant. Swartz and Bruce were still in the sick bay from being peppered with machine gun bullets in the unit’s previous mission. As a sort of reward, the team was handed an easy mission: Conner Industries’ research center 13 on the asteroid DH-3 was housing newly developed military technology. What’s more, the normally heavily guarded installation was going through a guard rotation and was sporting only a minimal security crew. A quick smash and grab of both research data and scientists was in order. The unit was joined by two new troopers:

Pvt. Brian Boru, a slightly unhinged flamethrower-wielding trooper with a tendency for pyromania and a faint aroma of gasoline always hanging about him.

Pvt. “Hellion”, a young female punk rocker. No one has an idea of her real nime, as she prefers her stage name. While reluctantly a part of the military, she tends to be good at it. Hellion wields a smartgun.

The sixteenth blasted their way into the station. The motion scanners detected a guard right outside their planned entry door. Springing into action, they opened the door – much to the guard’s surprise. The security officer hardly had enough time to register that something was happening, when he was grabbed by pvt. Dastevan and given a faceful of rifle stock. The unconscious guard was pulled into the entry chamber, and the team spread out into the corridors of the research center.

A lone blip on the motion scanner reveals a guard

A lone blip on the motion scanner reveals a guard

Waiting to breach

Waiting to breach

The sixteenth fans out

The sixteenth fans out

The unit was steamrolling through the installation. Boru, Lau, Leroy and Franz-Haugen-Ankerson headed for the infirmary, while Hellion, Fender, DiGlaeser and Abdul took the main corridor towards the data core. Dastevan being Dastevan, he stormed off in order to take down another guard, who was warily approaching, clutching his pistol. The gun wasn’t much help though, as moments later Dastevan pounced on him and knocked him unconscious in one blow – right under the eyes of a quickly panicking scientist, who was the next one to go down after a brief struggle. Dastevan was on a roll and enjoying himself.

Sgt. Franz-Haugen-Ankerson’s crew entered the infirmary to find a surprised young doctor. The doctor voiced his disapproval but quickly fell quiet after observing the dynamic duo of Boru and Lau – the first cradling a flamethrower with a manic gleam in his eyes and the second twitching nervously, waving his gun around and looking the medicine cabinets over with the eye of a true connoisseur. The good doctor was bound with zip ties and private Leroy started escorting him out at gunpoint.

The medic and the doctor - there's a difference

The medic and the doctor – there’s a difference

Everything wasn’t going to plan, however. While most of the operation was rolling along as expected, lieutenant Fender’s group didn’t have it their way. Private Hellion rounded a corner to take down a female security guard, who promptly proceeded to pistol-whip the smartgunner. Hellion took a nasty fall, smacked her head into the wall and fell unconscious.

The security guard surprises Hellion

The security guard surprises Hellion

With Hellion down, the guard quickly retreated to a better position. The security force wouldn’t go down without a fight, but with pistols and a few carbines against the UTOPIA troopers’ pulse rifles, flamethrowers and sharp sticks, it wasn’t promising. True enough, a moment later the guard saw her bullet glance off DiGlaeser’s body armour and she was taken down by DiGlaeser and Dastevan. Another security guard turning up had a similar fate, despite her carrying one of the security team’s two carbines.

Attempting to turn the tide, the security chief Hutchinson joined the fight. A long period of inactivity in the guards’ duties proved to be his demise, as his gun clicked empty when he tried to return fire against the troopers. In response lieutenant Fender shot Hutchinson in the face, killing him instantly. This left only one security guard, Smith.

Smith was definitely not going down without a fight. He had a good position at the end of a long corridor. He’d peek out and squeeze off a few shots with his carbine and then take cover behind a corner. Lieutenant Fender and trooper Abdul poured fire down the corridor but were unable to dislodge the pesky guard…

Officer Smith holds his ground...

Officer Smith holds his ground

…who responded with some accurate fire of his own. Both Fender and Abdul were knocked to the floor and sheer luck saved their lives as Smith’s rounds whistled down the corridor.

Fender and Abdul run into trouble

Fender and Abdul run into trouble

It wasn’t until Dastevan managed to flank the guard that he finally put down his weapon and surrendered. It seemed the fight for research center 13 was well and truly over, when suddenly the Apache Owl – the unit’s dropship – hailed them: “Lieutenant Fender! Things are getting rough out here – the fleet is moving in and they’re transporting in new troops by the boatload!” Things started clicking into place: the convenient gap in the guard rotation, the skeleton crew, the scientists with their ID cards saying “assistant” or “intern”…A TRAP! The research center’s intercom soon let them know, that they had a minute to offer their surrender before facing annihilation. The sixteenth tried to bargain with the lives of the scientists and the security personnel, but to no awail.

Not willing to play ball, the sixteenth immediately started checking their surroundings. After interrogating the personnel, it quickly became clear that an easy escape was out of the question. After a bit of persuasion and discussion, the surviving members of the security team offered to join the troopers in exchange for their freedom. After all, it had just become apparent that their well-being wasn’t a top priority for their superiors. This proved to be a good deal, as one of the guards remembered a long unused cache of weapons in the armory. After opening the crate, the troopers found five automated sentry turrets, which were sure to become handy very soon.

As Lieutenant Fender started giving out orders for the defenders, the medic Shaq Leroy went to check on pvt. Hellion, who still hadn’t waken up. Leroy was in for a sad surprise, as Hellion’s head had hit the corner of a loose wall plate, and the young punk rocker was long gone. It seemed the sixteenth’s curse was still going strong – apart from Franz-Haugen-Ankerson and Evans who had been in the unit from day one, no female trooper had survived for more than a mission or two, and many had died on their first assignment.

Thus concluded the first game of Utopia’s “season 2”, and the first part of our first ever two-part mission for Utopia, the next part will follow when I get some new minis painted up for the attackers. The game was great fun, and yet another very cinematic session that attests to the versatility of the Flying Lead system. It was also a great chance to break out my Space Hulk tiles for a change. While ‘Hulk is a grid based game, the tiles worked perfectly well with Flying Lead’s measurement system. I also used plenty of resin scenery bits from Ainsty, although all too few of them have been painted yet. It was nice to have the recently painted security guards on the table too.

As always, I’m happy the campaign is still rolling on, even with long gaps between games! Feedback welcome, as always!

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First Contact

May 8, 2010

I’m back from my little UK tour, and I’m happy to say that my uninspired mood towards miniatures has pretty much disappeared. Oh, I knew it would but it’s always a happy event.

I finally received my copy of Space Hulk, and proceeded to test the rules first by gaming solo and then inviting a few friends over for a game. The result? A very fun night spent blasting Xenomorphs and ripping Colonial Marines apart. The rules were easy and quick to pick up, and we were gaming in no time even with little to no previous Space Hulk experience. While it’s basically a two player affair, the game lent itself well to three-way gaming, as there are quite a few missions with two squads of marines and one player controlling the Genestealers, or Aliens in our case. We played using the Colonial Marines and Aliens detailed a few posts back.

With the corridor ahead on fire, a marine has time for a quick breather, not to mention death

One thing we really enjoyed was the movie-like feel to the game. The air was thick with Aliens quotes before long, and small fragments of narrative started forming. As the gun on a marine firing on overwatch jammed and he was soon after nailed by an Alien, we could just imagine the few seconds of terror experienced by our little imaginary friend. Such cinematic moments were frequent, as the Marines were in many games taken out one by one, either by luck or simply by way of numbers. Space Hulk’s rules capture the imagery and feel of the Alien quadrilogy – part two especially – beautifully. The rules also present the Genestealers as terrifying in close combat, capable of easily tearing through a marine. We observed that this is even more fitting for an Alien scenario, as there really is no doubt about who the favourite is in a hand to hand encounter.

Despite his overwatch, a CM sergeant is about to become the evening's white meat of choice

In addition to the cinematic feel and quickness of play, another thing in favour of Space Hulk is its unpredictability. This doesn’t mean that the games are totally random, but simply that you can never be quite sure that the plan you’ve crafted is going to work. Guns will jam, creatures just will not die, a marine will actually win a close combat encounter and so on. This leaves room for – and indeed forces – the tactician to actually think ahead a bit and prepare to cope with surprise situations. And this means the game becomes actually pretty hard to master, especially considering the 3 minute time limit the marine player has. All this makes for a very entertaining game with a high replay value.

"They're coming outta the goddamn walls!"

One thing that I tend to forget while concentrating on the modelling aspect of miniatures is that gaming is actually really fun once you get down to it. A couple of good friends, a ton of snacks and a few solid games with painted miniatures make for an excellent night. A reminder like this is really good every once in a while. It’s also great for motivation, since something is actually coming out of all of those big unfinished projects. In this case it was a night of gaming and spending time with friends, which left us all yearning for more. Not bad at all!

I’m also happy to report that the game prompted me to finish three HorrorClix Aliens, that’ve been half painted for ages, and I’m preparing to paint the remaining seven. As Ferro puts it in Aliens: We’re in the pipe, five by five.

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